National Pig Day 2018

Thursday 1 March is celebrated in the US as national pig day, where pigs are accorded their rightful place in society.
calendar icon 1 March 2018
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The national holiday was established in 1972 by two Texan sisters, Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave, who believed that the humble pig deserved national recognition and celebration for its place in society as “one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals” [1].

Pigs have been the humble and clever creatures of fiction on numerous occasions – Wilbur, Babe, Snowball and Piglet, all recognisable characters from favourite childhood stories, have conveyed important fables to children for decades.

Pigs have also provided companionship and, as distinctly social, affectionate animals, have been kept as pets throughout history [2].

The role of pigs in society has evolved over time – pigs are now recognised much more for their place on our plates, than for their sentience and intellect, and their contribution to our livelihoods [3]. The vast number of pig breeds has allowed us to produce an enormous array of pork dishes all over the world.

However, pigs have contributed much more to human life than we usually stop to think about.

Pigs have had a place in science and research for centuries but it is their tissue compatibility with humans that has allowed researchers to produce the first genetically engineered organs, blood and tissue that have life-saving potential for human patients awaiting transplants.

Due to the biological similarities between pigs and humans, pigs have contributed to widely to developing our understanding of, and ability to manipulate, embryonic development, cardiology, gastroenterology, hepatology and dermatology – to name but a few disciplines.

Though some wild pig species are regarded as pests due to their destructive impact on crop plants and gardens, and because they spread diseases, such as African swine fever and Brucellosis, their omnivorous diet and capacity to withstand toxins found in common forage material means pigs play a key environmental role. Their hyper-sensitive sense of smell allows pigs to forage out acorns and other treats, including truffles, which ruminants and other animals struggle to digest [4]. Pig waste is also commonly used as fertiliser in crop systems and can be used to produce biogas.

So how do people celebrate #nationalpigday? At the Tisch Children's Zoo based in Central Park, New York, the resident pot-bellied pigs have previously taken a tour of the zoo for the day, and a nursing home in Lexington, Kentucky, once welcomed Stella, another potbellied pig, and all pig-themed memorabilia in a porcine parade through the home.

Pig-themed paraphernalia can certainly be found in abundance on this national holiday! Some even dressed up as their favourite comic-strip pig heroes.

Featured in 2011 Pop Culture. Photo: GeekDoug Kline

Pigs have helped to better human life in a variety of ways over many centuries – take a moment to appreciate the pigs in your life, however you choose to celebrate #nationalpigday

The Pig Site

[1] A Pig-Out for porkers. February 23, 1980. Associated Press story reported in Virgin Islands Daily News.

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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